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Ways to Identify Leather Types

Leather types and how to determine them – Aniline (A), Nubuck (N), Protected (P)


These leathers are coloured with a transparent dye. This means that you are able to see the actual surface grain and markings through the actual colour. These leathers have very little or no protective treatments applied to them. The most common thing to do this is to spray a wax finish on the surface that gives short term water repellence.

The actual way the leather is processed varies from place to place.

Aniline leathers can be broken down into two types:

  • Semi-Aniline leathers are top dyed and protected with a “polyurethane like” substance. They are desired because of easy clean up and this leather has a little more sun protection. Semi-Aniline leathers are sometimes “corrected” prior to the dying process. Texture is sometimes embossed, scratches or holes are filled. Semi-Aniline leathers can be rough or smooth but generally feel cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer due to their “sealed” characteristic. These leathers are the least expensive.
  • Full-Aniline leathers are considered “naked” leathers as they are not protected and they will patina (slight hue that gives character) with age. These leathers are buttery soft and are mostly desired because of their true natural look and their temperature changing abilities. Because they are not top-sealed, they are porous and they take on a warm feeling in the summer. These leathers are premium hides with no corrections and the most expensive.

Ways to identify Aniline: For care and maintenance purposes we need to know if the surface has been brushed (has a texture like velvet) or not. This is the point at which people have difficulty distinguishing Nubuck from Aniline. There are several ways you can identify Aniline leather: 1. Lightly scratch the surface to see if it leaves a lighter colour scratch mark. If it scratches to a lighter colour, it could be Aniline. This is not the only test to do because some Nubuck will do this also. 2. Wet your finger and lightly rub it into the leather to see if it darkens. It should darken lightly, but dry invisibly.


These leathers have combined the best aspects of a natural product (leather) and have utilised tannery technology to create a product that is more uniform in appearance and colour (due to the application of pigments to the surface). It then has a finish applied to the surface that makes the leather more resistant to the effects of heavy use. The pigments and finish applied to the leather do affect the softness somewhat. The more that is needed to be applied the less soft the leather is. Protected leathers are the most common leathers, and for most consumers, the most practical.

Ways to identify protected leather: 1. Lightly scratch the surface to see if it leaves a lighter colour scratch mark. If it does not scratch to a lighter colour (this means the colour remains the same), then this is protected leather. 2. The surface should have some sort of sheen to it. It is like looking at wood that has a lacquer finish compared to a wipe-on oil treatment.

*NUBUCK: Code N also called DISTRESSED, BOMBER or SUEDE (a misnomer).

These are actual Aniline leathers on which the surface has been brushed, and have created a texture similar to velvet on leather. Many people confuse these with suede leather. Suede is the flesh side of a piece of leather while Nubuck is an effect that is done to the grain side, making it incredibly soft. The brushing also makes the leather even more absorbent than Aniline leathers.

Ways to identify Nubuck: 1. The surface should have a texture similar to velvet. You move your hand across the surface and, if it leaves shading traces similar to the effect when you vacuum a carpet in one direction and then in another, it is Nubuck. 2. Wet your finger and rub it lightly on the surface. The surface will darken and also will dry to a slightly darker shade. 3. For waxed surfaces, rub an area of the leather with a sponge several times. This will remove the wax and let you see if the leather meets 1 or 2 above. Nubuck leathers can reflect the natural leather grain or have an endless variety of embossed patterns applied to them, and colour vividly. This is why this type of leather is also very popular for the fashion industry.


Q. I am looking to buy a Leather Suite but the name “Bonded Leather” has cropped up. What is Bonded Leather?

A. In some ways explaining what bonded leather is can be the same as describing the difference between a 100% beefsteak burger and a piece of steak.

The material is leather that is “left over” or otherwise not in its original form, pressed together and adhered to other leather via a bonding agent. This type of leather, sometimes referred to as reconstituted leather, is an alternative to what is known as genuine leather, which are whole pieces of animal hide. Some may confuse bonded leather with artificial leather or synthetic leather, which should not be done. In some cases, a bonded leather product is 100 percent leather. In other cases, such as bonded leather upholstery, there could be as little as 17 percent leather in the product, the other 83% would be made up of a synthetic or man-made fibre and the bonding agent.
Those looking at bonded leather should understand this is an option that does include real leather. Some may appreciate that fact, while others may not. The difference between bonded leather and genuine leather, in terms of quality and looks, can be hard to see. If it is done properly, the grains and textures of bonded leather should look very close to that of genuine leather. In some cases, the only different may be that the texture of the bonded leather may not be quite as pronounced as that of natural-grained genuine leather. The function, smell, and overall appearance remains much the same, however. (source: Wise Guy).


Leather furniture needs to be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis.  The most common problem is the drying out of its oils and water.  The primary culprit is the sun.  Also, heat and air conditioning can cause this as well. It is recommended to try to keep leather furniture away from these elements.

Leather needs to be cleaned to prevent airborne dust and particles from building up on the surface.  Once they build up they tend to clog its pores, and as the leather is flexed, they travel down into its fibres.  The leather becomes hard, and is more prone to cracking and splitting.  Thus the chances of your keys or a pet making permanent scratches are higher on un-cleaned leather furniture.  These contaminants need to be removed and conditioner should be applied after.

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